Durham Police prioritize new hires, mental health with increased 2022 budget from Whitby headquarters

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Published December 23, 2021 at 9:44 am

Oshawa Police Station

Durham Police will be using their 4.5 per cent higher 2022 budget for a many new initiatives including; hiring 20 new officers, training three mental health response officers and creating a new crisis call diversion response.

However, the mentioned priorities were almost left on the cutting room floor by a Regional mandate to keep next year’s police budget within a set guideline. As the Durham Police Services Board was told on December 21, it took a great deal of budget reworking to include these initiatives.

In September, the Regional Council capped the police budget at a 4.16 per cent increase leaving DRPS with $232.48 million, which is $3.87 million less than the 5.9 per cent increase police had initially requested.

Consequently DRPS had to cut the previously mentioned initiatives to bring the budget down by 1.74 per cent of their ask. These were priority programs for a council that evidently did not want to move forward without them.

In the very November meeting when the amended budget was presented, Council ordered DRPS Chief Rollauer to return with a  budget containing funding for the cut programs.

After a month of consideration by Durham Region’s finance department three areas were chosen for adjustments; debt service, hydro use and funding for an unspecified one time project to accommodate the Regional request.

These changes result in being able to keep the programs, but still overran the guideline, resulting in a budget increase of 4.54 per cent.

The report stresses that while these compromises show, “no significant operational risk,” DRPS has been requesting reserve funds for years. Reserves would ensure funding for capital replacement and reduce budget volatility from labour costs.

The report says without these reserves, it will be increasingly difficult for DRPS to replace equipment when needed as the budget stretches thinner.

The report also includes warning of increased operational costs running into the 2023 budget as well. The 2022 budget sets aside cash for an additional 40 full-time positions. In 2023 the second half of their salary will come due, bumping that budget by $2.6 million.

DRPS expects this need to grow over the coming years as Durham Region’s population expands. Regional projections indicate the Region will double in population over the next 20 years, who in turn will require more officers to police.

Future budgets will also be under strain from rising costs of the body-worn camera program, relocation of the Regional Reporting Centre, legal fee and WSIB claims, per the report.

“We worked very hard with the Region and staff to bring the budget down, ” said Stan MacLellan, DRPS’ Chief Administration officer, “and ultimately came the number before the board right now. ”

“The staff at the Region… would be more comfortable if the number came down to the number came to the guideline, ” he continued, “However, meeting all the pressures, we weren’t able to get there.”

Board member and Regional Councillor Kevin Ashe said, “The guideline is a respectful process. I’m delighted that staff put a budget together that met that guideline.”

“We’ve identified as a Board some very important priorities we felt were not included in this budget.” he continued, “So, I’m going to support it and have the adult conversation with Regional Council.”

“I don’t think we need to cut programs or people to be more efficient”, Ashe concluded, “So I’m going to be supporting the budget.”

The Board voted unanimously to pass the draft budget, with Chair and Port Perry Mayor Bobbie Drew commenting, “I didn’t think that’d pass as quickly as it did.”

The next step is approval by the full Regional Council. The final Region-wide budget will be presented on February 22.

 

 

 

 

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